Student Sues School For Privacy Invasion After School Found Nude Photos On Her Phone

from the the-case-that-keeps-on-giving dept

You may recall the news story from last year about some teenaged girls in Pennsylvania who were being threatened with child porn charges, after taking “nude and semi-nude” photos of themselves on a mobile phone during a party, and sending them to others. The judge halted the potential lawsuit, noting that the nude photos didn’t appear to depict any sexual acts (as per the law), but the local prosecutor still wanted to file charges. As more and more details came out, the whole thing got increasingly ridiculous. Apparently, the girls in question were given a choice to either take a “re-education” class, or face charges.

And now, reader Pickle Monger points out that one of the girls, along with the ACLU, is suing the school district itself, claiming that it violated the girl’s privacy. Apparently, the way the school found out about the photos was that it had confiscated her mobile phone, after she was caught making a phone call on school grounds, against school rules. There’s no problem with confiscating the phone, of course, but then the school searched through the phone and found those photos. It’s the search that the ACLU and the student are questioning. The school had no reason to search through the phone, or to look at the photos stored on the phone after it had confiscated it.

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Student Sues School For Privacy Invasion After School Found Nude Photos On Her Phone”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

This is great and awesome.

I have long been concerned about the tyrannical situations that our school children have to deal with, day after day. There have been a few cases that generated publicity, but they’ve been too few and far-between to affect any real change on a large level.

Hopefully, with all of the publicity that these recent cases have gotten, people will start paying attention to what’s going on in our public schools.

Adults would never stand for the level of scrutiny and illegal behavior that these children are forced to deal with.

John says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Look around…this isn’t the economy for jumping to a new job at the drop of a hat…because you aren’t happy with your treatment.

Fact, the girl was breaking the rules AND she was behaving badly. If she had not done both of them, this wouldn’t even be an issue. She shouldn’t be suing, she should be spanked, have her phone taken away and taught proper manners.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Look around…this isn’t the economy for jumping to a new job at the drop of a hat…because you aren’t happy with your treatment.”

That’s irrelevant.

First, just because YOU put up with it does not mean that anyone else should.

Second, you can still find a new job. It might be hard and it might be a shitty job, but you have the option of leaving if nothing else.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

no, the fact is that while the school may have the right to confiscate a cell phone, that does not give them the right to go through the contents of the phone.

aside from that, its not the schools place to lay down any sort of discipline in response to something like this. notify the parents? sure. notify law enforcement? id even buy that… but schools are educational facilities, not law enforcement agencies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

yes, but they employees sign some form of a waiver i’m sure. i don’t think school children get that chance seeing as they are minors and cannot legally do that. i guess you could say that the agreement of the parents is implicit since they choose to send their children to a public school. but i’m sure there are privacy laws for just this kind of reason…

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Rights

> You cannot sign away your rights in the US.

Sure you can. It’s perfectly legal and people do it all the time.

You have a right to be free against warrantless searches of your home and belongings by the police but you can waive that right and allow the cops to search your house even if they don’t have a warrant.

You have a right not to testify against yourself but you can waive that right and sign a confession or take the stand at trial.

You have a right to an attorney but you can waive that right and proceed without one.

You have a right to free speech but you can waive that right in exchange for money or something of value.

The only right the courts have deemed unwaivable is the prohibition against slavery.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: This is great and awesome.

“Hopefully, with all of the publicity that these recent cases have gotten, people will start paying attention to what’s going on in our public schools.”

Im in the area of Lower Merion. I had a user come in and we were talking about what had happened, and her concern was that her taxes would go up. She has a daughter in 12th grade. She said, “Aww, all they will see if they looked, was my girls confused look as she tried to figure out her homework.” Then went on to complain about taxes, and how it looked. Forget the possibility some scumbag tech could have seen her naked, or those photos could some day appear on the internet… She was more concerned about prestige, and money. This is a typical attitude for the area. Very stuck up.

“Adults would never stand for the level of scrutiny and illegal behavior that these children are forced to deal with.”
I am not so optimistic. PPL will put up with an amazing amount of crap. The past 10 years has shown that. LOL.

Have a good day Rose.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

IANAL but my guess would be that with the school there was no reason to look through the phone. Looking at anything was a potential privacy invasion. You had a clear reason to be looking through the phone, to determine the identity of the owner, so you should be fine if it ever happens again.

Now if you look through the contacts and then copy them and publish them and copy the photos and publish them too, you might get in trouble, so don’t do that :-p

On another note … I assume the school copied the photos off of her phone, so copyright violation as well? but she’d have to register the copyright first?

CJ says:

Re: Re:

In order to try and return it we tried to look through the numbers on that phone to see if we can perhaps call someone who knew the owner. Is that an invasion of privacy? What are the legal dynamics of that?

Did you also look through the phone’s private photos and send them to other people? I think there’s a huge difference between looking through a phone’s contact list to try to report it missing and going through personal photos or text messages no doubt looking for something salacious or punishable. There’s also more to the suit than just the principal’s actions, apparently there are multiple copies of the photos floating around after it was sent to the police and its labs and the detective who was put in charge of the case when the principal decided to send the photos to the police told the girl that she should have waited a couple months until she was 18 and sold the photos to Playboy and winked at ther as well as some other pervy and beyond inappropriate things.

RD says:

Sex and Nudity

“The judge halted the potential lawsuit, noting that the nude photos didn’t appear to depict any sexual acts (as per the law), but the local prosecutor still wanted to file charges.”

Thats because in our new, shiny, 21st century world of Political Correctness run amok, nudity in ANY form equals sexual deviance. Remember, people get prosecuted now for having nude pics of their OWN children in, say, a bathtub. I have one of me (no genetalia showing tho) from when I was about 5. Should I be hauled off to jail as a “child pornographer”? The answer today is YES! Of course I should, dont be stupid. Nudity=sexual acts for these purposes. The fact that its a pic OF MYSELF also wouldnt matter, since its a NUDE of a CHILD and therefore illegal. These overzealous prosecutors and moral crusaders twist not only the law, but common sense, in their puritanical zeal to stamp out ANY hint of nudity or sex at any level of society.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sex and Nudity

for once you are correct. usc 18 section 2256 and 2257 pretty much define all sorts of rules for pornography, including defining what is sexual material. recent changes (last few years) to those laws include non-sexual displays. in this case, the judge got it very wrong indeed, especially the boys who did truly possess nude images of minors. those same images posted widely on the internet would absolutely be child porn.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not to necesarrily take the schools side here, but I’m not sure that there was enough info in this article to form a rational opinion as to whether or not they should have gone through the phone. I can envision a scenario where the adult confiscating the phone overheard conversation that was potentially dangerous to the girl or another minor. Yes, it is thin, but I really hate to come to conclusions without information.

DJ (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree…to a point. I know that there are many schools, both public and private, whose charters specifically state that they are allowed to do searches like that; naturally, the parents are required to sign something saying that they’ve read this.
There are a lot of unknowns — at least as far as the general public goes — in this case.

Spanky says:


I’ve actually been thru “reeducation”. I don’t remember what happened. Something about a rat. And the number 101. But I’m much better now, and ready to take my place in society. In society. in society.

You can look thru a phone to find identity information without looking for photos, texts, etc. If you look at photos and texts, your prying.

And @DJ – I’ll get down off my high horse when *I* choose to. If you think you can tell me to, I got an ass you can blow it out.

Gordon says:

You're all missing the point here.

As a father of two teenage girls, I’d be pissed if their school went through their phones for any reason except as some have said here(lost phone found, going in to contacts to call someone who might know the owner).

If in fact like the post says (confiscated directly from the student for making a call on school property, which is against the rules), they already KNOW who the owner is and are simply taking it for the day. They in fact have NO reason to go through it.

If like one poster said, the teacher overheard something in the conversation that they were concerned about, call the parents of police and again….NO reason to go through the phone. That’s the parents job. There is a lil ol thing in the constitution against illegal searches and seizures. Just because the student is on school property and thus under their rules, does not give the school free reign to do exactly that.

My 2 pennies.

Koder Kev (profile) says:


And that, my friends, is why we have such things as PIN codes to lock our phones. Hardly anyone uses them. They “take too much time” or “they irritate me.” Better a moment of inconvenience than giving access to anyone that picks up your phone.

Folks, we’re in the Information Age. That means information = power. The more of your own info you keep to yourself, the happier (and safer) you will be. If you don’t use a PIN code, set one now. Here’s hoping you keep all your data safe.

gogo (profile) says:

well the girl is a little w***e but regardless she has the right to have on her phone whatever pics she wants, and the school should defend her if someone is looking at/using her pictures against her..and not look for them and punish her. that’s smth her parents should talk to her about. remember privacy and every man’s right (and freedom) to pursue happiness?

carson says:

damn right they are goin to court. Now a days our children home life and privacy is being invaded by the teachers. I know
of a school that does that all the time. whenstudents complain
the teachers merey explain how they are in the right even tho they arent. we are teaching children not to question authority
even tho their authority are fucking dirt bag over powered jerks.

schools can now even acces students face book without student consent and read convos. Even the off school problems are being handled at school. THE SCHOOL KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...